A look back at Middle Georgia’s top local stories of 2021
The pandemic and social justice once again dominated national headlines, but other stories were happening across the nation and in Middle Georgia.
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – 2021 started much like 2020 ended: Much of the nation remained focused on the pandemic.
Following vaccine approval and a slower than anticipated rollout, the state opened four mass drive-thru sites in January. One of them was in Macon.
Meanwhile, Macon-Bibb’s new mayor, Lester Miller, hit the ground running. The Brookdale Elementary School building opened as a shelter for the homeless.
“Now we have over 100 people that we’re able to have 24/7,” Miller said at the time. “They get fed three times a day, have a warm place to stay.”
It was one of several initiatives Miller spearheaded in 2021, including county-wide cleanup days, blight removal and Macon Violence Prevention.
In March, tragedy on I-16: Dublin High School principal, Dr. Jaroy Stuckey, along with his wife and toddler, were killed in an accident on I-16 in Bullock County. The school later named its basketball court in the late principal’s honor.
In April, 30-year-old Bibb County Sheriff’s Office deputy Christopher Knight died in the hospital after deputies say he was stabbed by an inmate. 22-year-old Albert Booze, the man accused in Knight’s death, was moved to the Monroe County Jail and was later accused of attacking deputies there. The Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to revoke Booze’s bond and keep him behind bars.
In June, Sandersville teacher Tina Prince disappeared after last being seen by family at a Mexican restaurant. Her body was found a week later in rural Washington County.
“Aaron Matthew Adams, age 31 of Sandersville, is in custody,” Washington County Sheriff Joel Cochran said at a news conference. “He is being charged with one count felony concealing a death, two counts of felony making false statements.”
A month later, in the midst of the summer travel season, I-16 in Treutlen County was shut down after a truck with its bed raised hit an overpass and shifted it six feet. Traffic was diverted in both directions.
“Soperton and Adrian aren’t used to seeing the traffic that I-16 creates,” Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson Kyle Collins said. “Hopefully it hasn’t been too much of a headache, because we know how important it is. Everybody travels this road whether it’s vacation, port traffic. We’ve got to have it open.”
All interstate lanes were back open the next day.
Also in July, three people were shot and two people were killed after shots were fired outside The Thirsty Turtle. The club ultimately handed over its liquor license.
Back in Macon, county leaders announced plans in September for a new amphitheater on the new Macon Mall property. The $100 million investment is set to include restaurants and retail space.
“I can’t wait to break ground,” Macon-Bibb Lester Miller said. “I can’t wait until the first concert here.”
In October, a month that saw several shootings in Macon, an Alamo police officer was ambushed and killed on his first night on the job. Officer Dylan Harrison left behind a wife and young child. Damien Ferguson was charged with his death.
A month later in Warner Robins, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filed a nearly $800,000 lien against the city. Mayor Randy Toms said the problem wasn’t back taxes, but instead an issue with the way taxes were reported. Challenger LaRhonda Patrick beat Toms in a runoff race for mayor in late November.
“We as elected officials are very aware,” Milledgeville Mayor Mary Parham Copelan said at a news conference held alongside local law enforcement. “Are we disheartened? Yes we are. If we could change it overnight, we would.”
Copelan’s comments came less than two weeks after Macon-Bibb Mayor Lester Miller unveiled his Macon Violence Prevention plan of action in an effort to combat violence in Macon-Bibb following another record-breaking year of homicides.